Wartime Stories

2015-11

WARTIME With German U-boats stalking the East Coast, New Hanover County was on a war footing during the early 1940s. Defending the home front meant spotters watched the skies for enemy planes and air raid wardens supervised drills. Lighting dim-outs and total blackouts prevented Wilmington and the beach towns from being seen by sea or air. Three area residents share their WWII memories. By Chris Russell | Photography by Chris Weisler Phyllis Millard age 87 WWhen the siren sounded, every-one had to stay indoors; it would sound again when it was safe to go outside. For a 13-year-old girl, the blackouts in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach were just a part of life. “The neighborhood kids would gang at my house if they were out when the siren went off,” Phyllis Rogers Millard recalls. “We would have drills about once a week. Everyone had to go inside and cover the windows, lights were out, and we could only use lanterns that shone down on the floor.” Although the drills made the older folks nervous, the kids would pass the time telling ghost stories “ ’cause it was so dark.” One night in particular, the drill lasted so long she knew something major was happening. “I remember when they had a complete blackout, even the ship-yard lights were out,” she says. “I looked out my bedroom window at 15th and Ann streets toward the shipyard, and everything was black.” Her mother told her a U-boat had been spotted close in off Wrightsville Beach. “Momma said they had not been seen that close in before,” Millard says. She later found out a U-boat tor-pedoed a ship and sank it. It likely 42 WBM november 2015


2015-11
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